Studies on Hearing Loss & Injuries

In hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

It is estimated that 50 million people in the U.S, deal with some degree of hearing loss. This problem is most prevalent with seniors as one in three people over 65 deals with hearing loss. Hearing loss puts you at risk for more than not being able to hear clearly. People who struggle to hear often have strained relationships with the people closest to them and also in their professional relationships. This can lead to depression, anxiety and self-isolation. Not only does hearing loss affect your emotional health but also the stress of not hearing can affect many aspects of your physical health including headaches, muscle tension, cognitive impairment and high blood pressure. Many studies have also linked hearing loss to a greater risk of accidental injuries and falls.

Greater Risk of Accidental Injury

When people are living with hearing loss their sense of space can become compromised. It becomes more difficult to recognize the direction a sound is coming from making it harder to anticipate where to position oneself to avoid collision. Often it is subtle ambient sounds that disappear first when people begin to lose hearing. It is common for people to not even realize they are missing these sounds but these subtle sounds are clues to the world around us. It could be the sound of a pet walking around the room or a door opening. With less non-visual clues in the world around us people become more likely to miss opportunities to anticipate the space around them.

Hearing loss and safety

A 2018 study explored accidental injuries in 2.8 percent of the adults of the United States. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey between 2007 and 2015, the finding found that the odds of accidental injuries were twice as likely to occur when someone was living with hearing issues. The rate of accidental injury increased from 2 percent among those with healthy hearing to approximately 5 percent in cases of people with hearing problems. Study co-author Hossein Mahboubi of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of California, Irvine believed that this study provides concrete data linking hearing problems and accidental injury.

“One can assume that if someone’s hearing is not great, if something comes their way like a baseball, or if they’re cycling out there and there’s a car horn getting close to them, they may not be able to hear that, and that theoretically can increase the possibility of getting injured.”

Activities That Are A Higher Risk With Hearing Loss

Many injuries put you at a higher risk of injury when living with hearing loss. Contact sports like baseball and football are much more dangerous when your hearing loss is involved. Many leisure activities like hikes and bike rides become a hazard. The study found that the rate of leisure injuries increased from .8 percent in instances of people with healthy hearing verses 1.4 percent among hearing impaired adults, suggesting that people with moderate or severe hearing loss are more likely to sustain injuries while playing sports or engaging in other leisure activities.

Driving is another instance of an activity that can be very dangerous if living with hearing loss. When you can not hear the sound of your turn signal left on or hear the sound of a warning horn from an oncoming vehicle, operating a motor vehicle can quickly become hazardous.

How to reduce your risk of accidental injury

One of the most shocking findings of the study found that it was people with slight hearing loss that had a higher instance of being injured in a workplace setting compared to people who were completely deaf. Mahboubi suggested that someone who has admitted their hearing loss might be more alert to dangers on the job, more cautious and less likely to get injured. The goal of studies like this are to remind people of the great risk of living with hearing loss, especially if it is unaddressed and untreated. “We would recommend that people who think they have at least some degree of hearing loss have it checked out by a doctor” says Mahboubi. Dealing with your hearing loss can help you stay safe for years to come.